Last Fall The Times of London shot my NYC apartment and interviewed me for their Sunday magazine. The article is available for subscribers only, but the article and photos are below.
The Designer’s Corner
by Vinny Lee from The Times of London
Bradford Shellhammer’s New York apartment is a blend of pop art, movie memorabilia and stunning views of the city’s landmarks
Bradford Shellhammer has been dubbed the “King of Quirk” by Forbes magazine, and a visit to his New York apartment is like a wander through the eccentricities of his mind; there are the displays of G.I. Joe dolls and Star Wars figurines, the collection of brilliant red sneakers and mismatched scarves, the saturated colour of the wall-to-wall portraits and the clashing patterns on the rugs. It’s like someone’s turned the contrast button up to max.
Shellhammer himself is an equally bright character. The founder of design retailer fab.com, which sells everything from clothes to candlesticks, is brimming with nervous energy. “New York is home, but Baltimore shaped me first,” he explains. “It’s an eclectic, odd city and I was allowed to celebrate my weirdness there.
“Baltimore is home to John Waters. Watch his films and suddenly I make a lot more sense,” he adds with a hearty laugh. “As a boy, I fell in love with music, art, the drag scene and DJ culture. I used to read about Warhol religiously, and that’s where my desire to go to New York came from.”
His apartment is on the top floor of a 1900s nine-storey building on the corner of 16th Street and 6th Avenue. He has lived there with his husband, Georgi Balinov, for the past year. “It’s a special corner for me; my first apartment in the city was directly across the street,” he says. Twelve giant windows give clear views all the way up 6th Avenue to Central Park, including the Empire State Building on one side and One World Trade Centre on the other.
Although he lived in the city for years, his new home came about by accident. “I wasn’t looking for an apartment, but a broker friend of mine knew it was coming on the market and urged me to see it. So Georgi and I took a look and two days later made an offer. Walking in that first time, I knew I belonged here. The previous owner had similar art and we even used the same shampoo brand.
“I found out later that it belonged to Michael Cunningham, who is my favourite author. I have read [his 1998 novel] The Hours at least a dozen times. Getting the apartment was like receiving a baton from my idol.”
The apartment needed a little updating so Shellhammer hired Caitlin Moore, the architect Cunningham used, to make the changes. He also sank the TV into the floor to make it less visible, then added colour, furniture and his collections of things, of which there are many.
“Collecting is my passion. I have been obsessed with music since a child when I collected cassette tapes. Tapes led to CDs and then 12in dance records, followed by sunglasses, G.I. Joe toys, Star Warsfigurines and eventually posters. Growing up, I lined many walls of our house floor-to-ceiling with posters pieced together like wallpaper.”
It was this passion for collecting and design that brought him to Fab. “We started the company with the aim of bringing design to more people and to give designers a platform from which to sell their creative output to the world. As a collector and lifelong shopper, I longed for a vibrant alternative to Amazon or Walmart. That’s what lit the spark for Fab.”
Looking around the apartment, there are many notable designer pieces. The blue swivel chairs in the sitting room are by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec for Ligne Roset. “They remind me of Star Trek for some reason, so of course I had to have them,” says Shellhammer, who with fab.com director Brian Mullen designed the black and white rug for the company’s in-house collection.
The bookcase in the bathroom was custom-built for Michael Cunningham, while the shelves in the bedroom are by Vitsoe, and hold over 200 books given to Shellhammer and Balinov by friends. The Warhol print above the bed is from Querelle, a gay film by Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and was a gift from the pop artist to one of the models in the image. It is one of four photos and seven prints of his they have. The Campbell’s soup memorabilia also link to him. “The Warhol Foundation sent the cans as a gift,” he says.
Shellhammer is hoping his quirky and quintessentially American brand will appeal equally to the European market now he has expanded operations. “Design is a global language spoken with regional accents,” he says, “and Europe has a great respect for design – it is inherent in the culture. The understanding of it and the expectation of quality are so high there.”
Let’s hope we live up to his expectations.